Vancouver Island has been my home for the past 25 years of my life, and a fantastically beautiful island it is. I feel very privileged to live in this area of Canada. Vancouver Island, known for its ethereal beauty is surrounded by sea, mountains and rain forest and although this island hosts a population of over one million people, it is still secluded enough from the mainland of British Columbia that it holds a reputation of being more laid back than perhaps the city dwellers of Vancouver themselves evoke. In order to leave the island, it requires a 2-hour ferry ride, which can be costly. So unless it’s a rare circumstance of business or pleasure, you don’t often find me venturing off of our little space of paradise.
Regardless of this mock isolation, there is an abundance of history on this island, even within my own small community of the Comox Valley. So much that I feel I will be able to gather enough to contribute some great stories on this blog. I warn you, these articles won’t follow the formula where I go investigate and bust the ghosts. I don’t think any medium of testing out there gets even close to proving that ghosts exist. Rather my intention is to collect stories of high strangeness and relate them to you, the reader. A collector of stories, not a buster of ghosts!
I’m going to start my first story with a personal anecdote of Beban House, a landmark heritage building located in the city of Nanaimo, that is reputedly haunted. Beban House was built by Frank Beban in 1930 with a rustic style architecture that was typical of the time. After his death in the early 1950’s, it was sold to the city and over time fell into a ruinous state. By the 1990’s the city was considering demolishing the structure until the heritage foundation stepped in and decided it was repairable. It has housed several different organizations since that time, including Tourism Nanaimo’s information center, Nanaimo’s Clippers Junior Hockey and currently The Boys & Girls Club.
In January/February of 2016 Matt Cook, your humble founder of The Curious Fortean, was visiting me from the UK and we had taken to going on little mini adventures around the island. One day we were in Nanaimo and had decided to check out Beban House, as I had recently seen an old video on YouTube detailing the paranormal experiences of the employees while it had been under Nanaimo Tourism as an information center. On our visit that day it stood empty and was locked up with a sign on the door announcing that it was soon to be the location of The Boys and Girls Club. We checked out the surroundings and peeked through windows to see a well intact rustic structure with wooden interiors and fireplaces circa the 1930’s. As we had my son with us we didn’t stay long and decided to do more kid friendly outings, such as view petroglyphs and visit the local museum downtown (both great things to do with kids).
It was several weeks later that we ventured south of the island again for a day trip, but on this particular trip, we decided to go to the town of Ladysmith and check out a building called The Black Nugget Museum. To our disappointment, the entire place was locked up and abandoned. It was a creepy building in bad repair that was chaotically filled to the brim with old furniture, mannequin head’s and nick nacks. This unknown closure left us walking the downtown streets of Ladysmith wondering what to do. Not too far from the Black Nugget, we found a local visitor information center. Matt and I were a bit hesitant about going in and asking if there were other “haunted” places in the town, but since we traveled all this way we figured why not.
We walked in and started leafing around the many pamphlets that talk about the island and the history of Ladysmith, which was built in 1904 by James Dunsmuir to house workers for his coal mines. As tourism season doesn’t get busy until June in Canada, it was pretty much dead inside this small center. A first glance of the rather bland office surroundings gave us the impression that there wasn’t going to be a wealth of information on the paranormal here. We were just considering leaving when a man came out from the back area and asked if he could help us. He was dressed in jeans and a buttoned up casual shirt, very unpretentious. At first, we were feigning just casual interest as if we didn’t need any help and then something just told me to blurt it out, so I did. I turned around and said, “ Actually we had come here to check out the Black Nugget Museum and we saw it was closed down”. He gave us a very interesting story about The Black Nugget, that I will relate some time in another post. Then I said, “Well what we are really wondering, as investigators are if there are any reportedly haunted locations in Ladysmith we might want to check out?” He quickly responded, a little awkwardly “No, no not that I know of”. Matt and I both looked at each other a bit disappointed and I took the pamphlets that the man was holding to hand to me that relayed the normal history talk they give tourists about their town.
Then suddenly the man changed his energy and decided to engage beyond mere pamphlet talk. He stared at us with this lingering hesitation and then said, “You know if you really want to go experience somewhere haunted you should check out Beban House in Nanaimo, not too far from here.” Both Matt and I exclaimed we had been to Beban and it was closed up and not really accessible and that we would love to be able to stay in it. Again, we were thinking this encounter was coming to no conclusion but mere small talk. Then the man countered, “You know I’ve never believed in this stuff before whatsoever, but I’m telling you if there is a place around here that is haunted, it’s Beban House. He paused slightly then continued “and I should know I worked there when it was Tourism Nanaimo’s information center years back.” It was right at that moment that I recognized the man as having been the one in the video I had watched on Beban House before we had ever visited, weeks ago.
After this declaration it was the point of no return, Matt and I began to ask him about his experiences there. He went to his computer and pulled up his video on YouTube, the one I posted for you above (I recommend you watch for details of experiences there). I pretended I had never seen it before and we got some rather interesting stories from him. He said to us that it was a crazy experience working there as a manager and he had never experienced the paranormal a day before in his life, and although still quite the skeptic he just couldn’t deny his experiences. He said that there were many stories he couldn’t tell for certain privacy and security reasons on that particular video but he relayed them to us. I won’t share them here out of respect for him; however, I can tell you that during the filming the film crew, as they ventured down into the basement began to have unexplained lighting and technical issues and became quite jumpy and nervous.
Many of the stories that are related in the video just touch a few of the experiences that went on during this man’s time. As he says, his office was Beban’s den and trophy room and it is likely why he was privy to so many experiences. He would have also been in Beban house on opening and closing shifts and would have witnessed unexplainable events under those solitary circumstances.
As it happens we never got to physically investigate Beban House. However, I wager we got something much better than that in the form of synchronicity that day in the town of Ladysmith. Had we by some instance gotten to go into the location for a few hours there’s a chance we would have gone away with nothing to write about. Instead we, by great circumstances collided paths, if only for a small conversation, with a man who had not only experienced ghostly phenomenon at Beban House, but he did so regularly over several years. To add to it, this man had a very logical mind, which was definitely changed by his experiences at Beban House in Nanaimo, British Columbia.